Jan 312012
 

By Eric from BigBlueInteractive.com

Approach to the Game – Super Bowl XLVI: Three down; one more to go.

Finish.

It’s been the Giants’ motto all season.  Finish off your opponent in the 4th quarter.  The origin of this battle cry was undoubtedly the Giants-Eagles meltdown in the Meadowlands last season that cost the Giants the division title.  For much of the season, without us knowing the full magnitude at the time, New York’s playoff life rested on their ability to respond to this challenge.  If the Giants had lost any one of their five 4th quarter comebacks, they would be sitting at home.  Instead, they swept the Cowboys, beat the Jets, pretty handily whipped the Falcons and Packers, and survived against the 49ers.  Now they have just one more game to play.

I think when we look back on the 2011 playoff run, we’ll point to the game against the 49ers as the Giants’ most significant challenge.  The Patriots?  Superb coach.  Superb quarterback.  But I think the Giants are the better team.  The Giants have the better quarterback.  They have the better (and healthier) receivers.  They have the better defense.  The Giants are not intimidated by Belichick or Brady.  And the fast playing surface will be an advantage for the Giants both on offense and defense.

But the best team does not always win.  Talent matters, but so does preparation, focus, intensity, intelligence, and above all, execution.

Finish.  Finish every play.  Finish the game.  Finish the season.

Go Giants!

Giants on Offense: The Patriots are extremely well-coached on defense and they don’t make a lot of mental mistakes.  But they are not a very talented group.  NT/DT Vince Wilfork is their best player and he can be handful for anyone, as clearly demonstrated in the playoffs. S Patrick Chung has returned to the lineup and has helped the secondary.  The linebackers are decent, but not standouts.

The Patriots finished 31st in the NFL in terms of yardage allowed and a much more respectable 18th in the NFL in terms of points allowed.  But they lost one of their best pass rushers in DE Andre Carter for the season and now most of their pressure comes from DE/LB Mark Anderson and LB Rob Ninkovich.  To get heat on the quarterback, the Patriots often have to out-scheme their opponent through confusing blitz packages rather than playing it straight up.  The Patriots will play both the 4-3 and 3-4 and they will move players around – everything being designed to confuse the opposition.  They play more of a 3-4 look now, but that can still change.

No one can imagine the Patriots’ playing the Giants’ straight up with the secondary they have.  They would get killed.  So do the Patriots risk putting more stress on the secondary and blitz a ton, or do they play more in coverage?  My guess is they play more in coverage and try to catch the Giants off guard with an occasional blitz they haven’t seen before.  If I’m Belichick, I make the Giants dink and dunk me down the field and/or beat me with the run.  I don’t give up the big passing plays, especially the long runs after the catch.  The Patriots will constantly change their looks in the secondary in an effort to confuse Manning and his receivers.  Remember, both the quarterback and the receivers have to be on the same page in the Giants’ offense.

I think there are five big keys for the Giants’ offense in this game:

(1) Eli can’t get too caught up on the mind games.  With all of the latitude that the Coughlin/Gilbride offense gives Eli at the line of scrimmage, it many ways, this game will become a chess match between Eli and Belichick.  Eli’s brother used to fall victim to that trap.  The Patriots would show Peyton one look and then change it with only seconds before the ball was snapped, knowing Peyton would want to change the play again to the ideal response.  Eli tends to use all of the clock as it is, so there is a real danger here for penalties, being rushed/feeling out of sorts, and general confusion.  The Giants’ offensive personnel is better than the Patriots’ defensive personnel.  The perfect play does not have to be called on each and every play.  There are no style points here.  Don’t get out of your comfort zone.  Run the play that is called.  If there is time to change it, fine.  If not, see if you can beat them regardless.  Above all, BE PATIENT.  If the Patriots’ are going to give up the short pass and run, take it, and don’t make mistakes.

(2) The offensive line needs to rebound from the bad NFC Championship Game.  The Patriots don’t rush the passer like the 49ers.  They don’t have the same weapons.  But the Patriots do have 40 sacks on the year.  Ten of those came from Carter and he won’t be playing, but the Patriots have demonstrated an ability to get to the quarterback.  In the first meeting between these two teams in November, the Giants did a good job of protecting Manning.  They need that same kind of performance again.  In addition, if the Patriots play more defenders back and dare the Giants to beat them with the running game, the offensive line, tight ends, and fullback MUST be able to win those advantageous match-ups up front.  In particular, they need to get Wilfork blocked.  If the Patriots want to dare Manning to make Bradshaw the game’s MVP, then the blockers must give Bradshaw those holes.

(3) Don’t turn the football over.

(4) Finish (there’s that word again) drives with touchdowns.  The Patriots give up a lot of yardage but generally stiffen in the red zone.  Score touchdowns, not field goals.

(5) Have fun.  This is serious business.  It’s the Super Bowl.  But the Giants are the better team and if they play loose and execute, they will win.  Don’t worry about being perfect.  Do the best you can do on every single play and that will be good enough.

Giants on Defense: The Patriots are where they are because of coaching, Tom Brady, and an exceptionally-difficult to defend underneath passing game centered around slot receiver Wes Welker and two tight ends: Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

Everyone and their mother knows that what the Giants really want is a repeat of Super Bowl XLII when the Giants battered and bruised Brady all day long.  However, the 2007 Patriots relied heavily on a downfield passing game.  The 2011 Patriots use a quick, short passing attack that often allows Brady to get rid of the football before the pass rush can get to him.  Even more so than usual, against this offense, pass rush and coverage must work hand-in-hand.  The Patriots’ offense is a timing-based offense.  Disrupt that timing and Brady will hold onto the ball longer than he wants.  To disrupt the timing, the defenders must hit the receivers (this includes the tight ends) as they come off the line of scrimmage.  The Patriots will try to counter some of this by putting guys like Welker or Hernandez in motion (Gronkowski will probably be more limited because of his ankle injury and used more as a blocker in this contest).

I think the Giants match-up fairly well with the tight ends as both Michael Boley and Jacquian Williams are athletic coverage linebackers.  To me, the first key is defending Welker out of the slot.  The Giants really don’t have anyone who is ideally suited to covering him.  The second key is to not let WR Deion Branch (or any other outside receiver) do any significant damage outside.  The Giants have to count on Corey Webster and Aaron Ross to shut down the outside guys so they can focus their attention on Welker and Hernandez.

Belichick is also going to force the Giants’ pass rushers to think by running the ball (especially out of the shotgun), employing screens (something the Patriots have gotten away from but still can do), and using misdirection.  Watch out for the trick play too with a guy like Julian Edelman being able to throw the football.

I can see the Patriots approaching this game one of two ways.  I could see them coming out trying to attack on full cylinders, using the hurry-up/no-huddle to keep the Giants out of their situational pass rush packages and tire and confuse the defenders.  Paul Dottino mentioned this week that the Giants were often late getting their defensive signals in on more than a few plays.  I can see the Patriots forcing the Giants to respond both physically and mentally to the up tempo challenge.  On the other hand, I also could see the Patriots trying to shorten the game and keep the explosive Giants’ attack off the field through the short passing game and, yes, even running the football.  Don’t underestimate BenJarvus Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.  The Giants will have to prepare for either strategy and adjust accordingly.

Lastly, there will come a moment or two in this game where the defense will have to stand up and make a game-winning play.  It may come on a 4th down conversion attempt or a last-minute drive by Brady.  But some defender – hopefully playing within the overall discipline of the defense – is going to have to save the day by making a play and crushing New England’s hopes.

Giants on Special Teams: We saw in both the NFC and AFC Championship Games just how much special teams can decide a game – and a season.  Danny Woodhead’s longest kickoff return this season has come in the playoffs (41 yards).  Both Julian Edelman and Wes Welker return punts.

The Giants must remain vigilant for trick plays on field goals, punts, and even returns.

The Giants have gotten so tantalizing close to blocking a punt…

Jan 312012
 

January 30, 2012 Tom Coughlin Press Conference: Video of yesterday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: Video clips of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

WFAN Interview with DE Justin Tuck: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with DE Justin Tuck is available at CBSNewYork.com.

NFL Network Interview with DE Justin Tuck and LB Mathias Kiwanuka: The video of yesterday’s NFL Network interview with DE Justin Tuck and LB Mathias Kiwanuka is available at NFL.com.

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Tom Coughlin’s Time Has Arrived by Rich Cimini of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on QB Eli Manning: Eli the Toughest QB in Super Bowl XLVI by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on FB Henry Hynoski: Henry Hynoski’s Parents Helped Lead Him From Coal Country to the Giants by Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger

Article on WR Devin Thomas: An Illustrated Guide to Devin Thomas by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Article on LB Mathias Kiwanuka: Kiwanukas Learn from Crash Course by Kevin Armstrong of The Daily News

Article on S Antrel Rolle: As Super Bowl Approaches, Even Giants’ Antrel Rolle Knows Talk is Unnecessary by Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger

Article on P Steve Weatherford: The Strong Leg, Sure Hands and Foul Mouth of Steve Weatheford by Greg Hanlon of CapitalNewYork.com

Article on the Injured Giants: Giants Leave the Injured Back at Home, for Now by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Article on Ann Mara: Ann Mara to Attend Super Bowl by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Jan 302012
 

New York Giants Arrive in Indianapolis This Afternoon: The Giants are scheduled to arrive in Indianapolis around 2:15PM today. Head Coach Tom Coughlin, QB Eli Manning, and a few players will address the media later in the day.

The entire team will spend tomorrow at Lucas Oil Stadium for Media Day from noon to 1:00PM. The Giants will hold their first of three practices in Indianapolis on Wednesday.

Article on the New York Giants: Giants of the Round Table, Part 2 by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on QB Eli Manning: Manning’s Toughness Has Sparked Another Giants Super Bowl Run by Tyler Dunne of The Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Super Bowl Special For Blanca Cruz by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on DE Osi Umenyiora: Osi Eyes Super Finish by Mike Lupica of The Daily News

Article on LB Mathias Kiwanuka: Kiwanuka Goes Home, but His Heart Is Far Away by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Article on LB Chase Blackburn: Chase Blackburn: An Unlikely Journey by Johnette Howard of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on Former Giants TE Bob Tucker: Bob Tucker, Lonely Light From Giants’ Dark Times, Still Shines by Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger

Jan 292012
 

Article on the New York Giants: Giants Super Bowl Winners Past and Present Give Unique Look Inside Team by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Articles on Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride:

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning: For Giants, Quarterback and Coach Together in Excellence by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Article on Head Coaches Tom Coughlin and Bill Belichick: Coughlin vs. Belichick: A Giant Clash by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on QB Eli Manning: Experts See Eli Among NFL’s Elite by Gary Myers of The Daily News

Article on Lesser-Known Giants: Five Unsung NY Giants Who Helped Make Run to Super Bowl XLVI Possible by Ebenezer Samuel of The Daily News

Article on HB Ahmad Bradshaw: Ahmad Bradshaw Inspires Big Blue by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Cruz’s 10 Most Memorable Plays of the Season by Ebenezer Samuel of The Daily News

Article on CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross: Ross, Webster Lead Confident Giants Secondary by Paul Schwartz of The New York Post

Article on CB Prince Amukamara: Giants’ Prince Amukamara Brings a Fresh Perspective in His First Season by Jorge Castillo of The Star-Ledger

Article on P Steve Weatherford: Giants Punter Finds Himself Going Home by Kevin Armstrong of The Daily News

Article on Former Giants OT Brad Benson: Giants’ Brad Benson Has Plenty to Say, Even If It’s Not Politically Correct by Dave D’Alessandro of The Star-Ledger

Article on Former Giants LB Steve DeOssie: Giants’ Steve DeOssie Shows Pride for His Son and Former Team Deep in Enemy Territory by Jenny Vrentas of The Star-Ledger

Article on Giants’ Fans in New England: Giants Fans Remain True Blue by Peter Schworm of The Boston Globe

Quotes: Former Giants QB Jared Lorenzen on QB Eli Manning: “I’ve never been around Tom Brady but I’ve been around Peyton and I’ve been around some other good guys. I’ve never seen somebody more mentally prepared than Eli. You can throw anything at that kid and he knows what’s going on, why they’re doing it and what the weakness is. It’s really impressive to see him orchestrate an offense and break down film, break down a defense. It was really a lot of fun.”

Jan 282012
 

January 27, 2012 New York Giants Injury Report – Jacquian Williams in Walking Boot: WR Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), LB Jacquian Williams (foot), CB Corey Webster (hamstring), and CB Will Blackmon (knee) missed practice yesterday.

“The shoulder is doing better, getting better day to day, still a little sore,” said Nicks. “Once I start working it out throughout the day it loosens up a little bit…I expect to be full go by next week. Just want to give myself a couple days to try and get it back right and rehab it a little bit…It was painful (during the game). I landed right on the AC joint that I injured a few times this season. I kind of landed right on top of it.”

Williams was spotted in the locker room wearing a walking boot. “Right now, I’m just resting for a couple of days,” said Williams. “But I’ll be running on it and just seeing what I can do the next couple of days…It’s nothing serious. I’ll be there. I’ll be ready for the game.”

HB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), OC David Baas (abdomen/neck), DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee), and LB Chase Blackburn (calf) practiced on a limited basis.

S Tyler Sash (concussion) fully practiced.

TE Jake Ballard (knee) is not on the injury report and says he is doing better. “I don’t need surgery (after the season),” said Ballard when asked about his partially-torn posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). “The last couple weeks I’ve been injured. I mean, my knee wasn’t feeling great and I wasn’t running well…A PCL doesn’t just heal. You have to build your strength back up…I’ve been building my leg muscles up and doing rehab, and it’s definitely helped.”

WFAN Interview with General Manager Jerry Reese: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with General Manager Jerry Reese is available at CBSNewYork.com.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Friday Press Conference: The transcript and video of yesterday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin are available at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning: Meet the NFL’s Most Dangerous Duo by Johnette Howard of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on the Giants’ Pass Rush: Giants Meet Tom Brady, Patriots Again Hoping to Continue Strong Pass Rush by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on Giants’ Rookies: No Pizza for the Rookies by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Articles on WR Victor Cruz:

Article on DE Osi Umenyiora: Umenyiora Overcomes Injuries, Contract Dispute by Michael Silver of Yahoo! Sports

Articles on LB Mathias Kiwanuka:

Article on Giants’ Team Security Official Mike Murphy: Murphy Walks Beat on Giants Sideline by George Willis of The New York Post

Article on Super Bowl XLII: Brandon Jacobs’ 2-Foot Run is Lost in Glory of That One-Handed Catch by Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger

Quotes: WR Hakeem Nicks on Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride: “(In Gilbride’s offense), there’s always the ability for you to win in your routes, no matter what coverages they play. If they try to take one route away, you might have to convert to another route within the offense.  You try to take one side of the formation away, then you have another coverage beater to the backside. It always works hand in hand…I feel like he is one of the top coaches. This is not his first time here, he’s been around, he has a pretty good resume. He definitely puts us in the right position to make plays.”

Jan 272012
 

January 26, 2012 New York Giants Injury Report – Seven Miss Practice: HB Ahmad Bradshaw (foot), WR Hakeem Nicks (shoulder), OC David Baas (abdomen/neck), LB Chase Blackburn (calf), LB Jacquian Williams (foot), CB Corey Webster (hamstring), and CB Will Blackmon (knee) missed practice yesterday.

“We are trying to be smart and not aggravate something that is there that will be able to be managed in a short amount of time and make sure that there is not anything else that happens,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin of the players held out of practice.

“I’m not (worried about it),” said Nicks. “This is what you play for, whether it’s hurting or not, I’m gonna go regardless. Right now I’m taking these little bit of days that we got to get it back better. Not any big deal. Early this season, I landed on it again in the game, it’s a little sore, just working on my range of motion right now.”

“I got my neck issue and it should be fine,” Baas said. “I massage, ice, all the normal stuff. But (I) should be back out there tomorrow doing stuff.”

DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) practiced on a limited basis.

S Tyler Sash (concussion) fully practiced.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Thursday Press Conference: The transcript of yesterday’s press conference with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at Giants.com.

Player Media Q&As: Transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

WFAN Interview with WR Devin Thomas: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with WR Devin Thomas is available at CBSNewYork.com.

Articles on the Giants’ Preparation for the Super Bowl:

Article on the 2011 New York Giants: The Skinny on Beating the Giants by Greg A. Bedard of The Boston Globe

Article on the Giants and QB Tom Brady: Giants Will Never Forget Brady Slight by Steve Serby of The New York Post

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin and Former Giants FB Charles Way: Unsung Giant Showed Coughlin the Way by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: No Quit in Coach Coughlin by Mike Lupica of The Daily News

Article on the Giants’ Offensive Line: Offensive Line Looking to Rebound by Matt Ehalt of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on WR Victor Cruz: Cruz Has Hoboken to Thank for Success by Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on WRs Devin Thomas and Michael Clayton: Giants’ Devin Thomas, Michael Clayton Connect as Kindred Spirits by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on DE Jason Pierre-Paul: Pierre-Paul’s Childhood Lessons Keep Him Grounded by George Willis of The New York Post

Article on S Deon Grant: Grant Gets Opportunity to Right Some Wrongs by Dan Salomone of Giants.com

Articles on Giants’ President/CEO John Mara:

Article on Former Giants QB Phil Simms and Super Bowl XXI: Simms Like Yesterday for Super Phil by Hank Gola of The Daily News

Jan 262012
 

Michael Boley on WFAN: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with LB Michael Boley is available at CBSNewYork.com.

Article on the Giants and the Super Bowl: We’re in the Super Bowl! Now What? by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Article on WR Devin Thomas: Devin Thomas Finds Special Role With Giants by Jason Reid of The Washington Post

Article on PK Lawrence Tynes: As Giants’ Lawrence Tynes Lines Up for Playoff Field Goals, Amanda Tynes Faces Pressure as a Kicker’s Wife by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on the Giants and Las Vegas: On a Futures Bet, Las Vegas Loses if the Giants Win by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Jan 252012
 
Jacquian Williams (57), New York Giants (January 22, 2012)

Jacquian Williams Strips the Football in Overtime – © USA TODAY Sports Images

New York Giants 20 (12-7) – San Francisco 49ers 17 (14-4)

by rnargi for BigBlueInteractive.com

Game Summary

The New York Giants persevered through a wet, windy day at Candlestick Park and defeated the San Francisco 49ers in overtime to advance to their 5th Super Bowl in Indianapolis on February 5, 2012.  New York earned the right to take on the AFC Champion New England Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XLII.

DT Chris Canty predicted a bloodbath for this contest, and it surely was.  Both defenses anchored into the muddy field and tried to will their respective teams to victory.  In the end, as it often times does, this game came down to the team who made the fewest mistakes, and on Sunday it was the Giants who came out of the dreary conditions with the fewest.

If you were to compare this game to another sport, it would be boxing.  This was a heavyweight match-up the likes that hasn’t been seen in the post-season in some time.  The 49ers threw haymakers and roundhouses, connecting on a couple but missing on others.  The Giants threw jab after jab with a few uppercuts thrown in, scoring points but unable to win rounds due to the big hits coming from the 49ers.

The game began in dramatic fashion.  After an initial 1st down off a busted screen where the Giants defense had RB Frank Gore strung out but allowed him to get away, the 49ers punted.  New York was able to advance the ball to their own 43 yard line despite getting nothing on the ground and 3 incomplete passes.  On 3rd and 8, San Francisco brought a blitz and it was picked up nicely.  DT Ray McDonald beat G Chris Snee cleanly on an outside move and when QB Eli Manning stepped up into the pocket, McDonald was there to strip sack him.  Fortunately for the Giants, ILB NaVorro Bowman was unable to pounce on the loose ball because RG Kevin Boothe fought him off and the ball squibbed right to RT Kareem McKenzie.  Had Boothe not fought for that ball, SF would have been set up at the Giants 33 yard line.  Instead, the Giants were able to punt.

Going into the game, it was common knowledge that the 49ers feast off turnovers and not allowing one there was absolutely huge.  The Giants did not fumble another ball.

On the ensuing drive, on a 2nd and 10 play from their own 27 yard line, San Francisco hit their first big play of the day.  TE Vernon Davis released unmolested off the line on a wheel route up the right sideline and went right by S Antrel Rolle.  QB Alex Smith made a beautiful throw, hitting Davis in stride at the New York 44 yard line and Davis did the rest.  It appeared he may have stepped out of bounds at the New York 33 yard line but it was determined on replay that there was no clear angle to determine whether he did or not.

In the first half, New York had 5 drives.  Four of them was successful at least from the standpoint of clock management and the amount of plays they were able to run.  The Giants ran an astounding 42 offensive plays to San Francisco’s 22 in the first half.  Despite having drives of 10, 10, 9 and 9 plays, the Giants were only able to come away with 10 points.  But New York’s defense got plenty of rest which was sorely needed.  The Giants controlled the clock for 18 minutes in the first half to the 49ers’ 12 minutes.

San Francisco also had 5 drives, but only one was over 5 plays (9, resulting in a punt).  New York forced two 3 and outs and SF also had the 2 play touchdown drive.  Despite completing just 2 of 7 passes in the half and running for just 45 yards with their backs, San Francisco was in the game because of the long touchdown combined with New York being unable to convert a 3rd and 1 and 4th and 1 from the 49ers 34 yard line.

Frankly, other than one play, New York’s defense utterly dominated the 49ers in the first half.  Though the Giants moved the ball fairly well, they were only up by 3 following a great 2 minute drive engineered by Manning.

The second half and overtime were a defensive war.

New York gained just 105 net yards and 5 first downs in the second half, while San Francisco gained 191 net yards and 10 first downs.  Neither team was able to sustain drives, but another quick strike touchdown gave the 49ers the lead.

In overtime, New York did move into 49er territory on their second possession but were forced to punt when Manning was sacked on a 3rd and 3 play from the 49er 46 yard line.

On the day, New York ran 90 offensive plays to 57 by San Francisco, but only out-gained them by 24 yards.  San Francisco out-gained the Giants on the ground by nearly a 2-1 margin, and again the QB did a lot of damage as Smith scrambled and ran for 42 yards on 6 attempts.  While San Francisco was efficient on the ground, helped by the Smith yardage to a 5.4 ypc average, they were not through the air, completing just 12 of 26 passes.  The Giants had the opposite problem, gaining most of their yardage through the air but gaining a lackluster 3.3 ypc on the ground.  San Francisco only got in the green zone once, never getting into a goal to go situation and came away with just a field goal on that drive.  New York managed to get into the green zone 4 times and came away with 2 touchdowns and 2 field goals.  New York was 1 of 2 in goal to go situations but the Giants were not attempting to get into the end zone on the final drive of the game, instead opting to set up the game winning field goal.  Finally, New York held the ball for more than 11 minutes longer than San Francisco.

In order to win, the Giants knew it could not afford to turn the ball over.  San Francisco had an early opportunity to cash in on the Manning fumble and later could have had a couple of interceptions but their secondary didn’t communicate and caused the ball to fall harmlessly to the ground.  New York also had a golden opportunity to get the ball deep in 49ers territory but DE Osi Umenyiora was unable to corral a muffed end around.  Later, CB Corey Webster and LB Jacquian Williams were unable to hold onto possible interceptions.

While both offenses did a very good job not turning the ball over on offense despite the poor weather conditions, the same can’t be said for the 49ers special teams.  San Francisco was missing their fastest WR and dangerous return man Ted Ginn, Jr. to injury and was replaced on the punt team by Kyle Williams.  The two biggest turning points in the game for the Giants’ fortunes were a punt that glanced off Williams’ knee and then later in overtime he fumbled a punt giving New York the ball on a short field.

Offense

Right from the outset, weather be damned, it was completely obvious that the Giants were going to attack the 49ers through the air.  New York dropped back to pass an incredible 64 times on Sunday.  As noted, the Giants simply got very little going in the running game and if not for the 18 yards gained on the final drive by Ahmad Bradshaw the numbers would have been horrific.

The Giants attacked the 49ers most often short in the middle of the field, and only attempted to go deep a couple of times.  Additionally, New York did try to get the screen game going to the WRs, to HB D.J. Ware split wide, and to Bradshaw and TE Travis Beckum conventionally but there was very little success there.

After converting 5 of 9 third downs in the first half, the Giants were only able to convert 2 of their final 12 attempts.  The two that they did convert came at the most crucial time in the game, on the 4th quarter go ahead touchdown drive.

New York moved the ball well in the first half but only had 10 points to show for it, but in the second half and overtime they were shut down nearly across the board and only scored on two short fields.  Most of the problem was a ferocious San Francisco pass rush that sacked Eli Manning 6 times in the game including 4 times in the second half and overtime.  On the day, Manning was officially hit 12 times but it appeared to be much more than that.  FOX said he was knocked down 12 times and hit 20 times.

Quarterback

Eli Manning once again put the Giants on his back.  Despite being under intense pressure much of the game, Eli was solid passing the ball.  The thing is, his stats do not tell the story of his game on Sunday.  Manning was simply unwilling to do anything that would hurt his team.  Of the 64 times he dropped back, there were only two passes he probably should not have thrown.  The first was a near interception when Hakeem Nicks broke outside on a pass that two 49ers converged on, but fortunately knocked into each other.  The second was a deep ball to Victor Cruz in overtime that CB Carlos Rogers was unable to gather in after he was hit by a safety.  Add in the one early fumble that the Giants recovered and those were pretty much the only mistakes Manning made all day.

Manning moved well in the pocket, bought time, and either took sacks or threw the ball away when he didn’t have what he wanted.  Manning has no problem throwing to his receivers when it’s one on one and frankly he expects his receivers to win.  A good case in point was the 2nd and 10 play on the final drive of the first half.  The Giants, at the snap, appeared to be in max protect (two TEs and a RB staying in to block) but Ballard and Ware both chipped and released.  Victor Cruz was lined up in the slot working one on one against Carlos Rogers who had inside leverage on the in-cut by Cruz.  Manning stepped up in the pocket, avoided two rushers as he slid to his left, and threw to Cruz on the outside of his cut.  Cruz stepped back to the outside and went up to catch the pass for a 1st and 10 at the SF 21 yard line.  It was an amazing throw and an amazing adjustment.

Manning also made several other heady plays.  One was having the presence of mind to wait for the field goal team to get back off the field before spiking the ball before the first Giants’ field goal.  Tynes just got that one inside the left upright so who knows what 5 extra yards would have done to the kick.  Another was to lateral the football to Ahmad Bradshaw as he was getting sacked, avoiding a huge loss.  Additionally, on their last drive in regulation, Manning nearly got the team into field goal range by once again avoiding pressure and finding Bradshaw down the left sideline for a 30 yard gain near midfield.

Despite the pressure that Eli was under, his stats in the 4th quarter and overtime were actually pretty good.  Manning was 12 for 20 for 100 yards 1TD and was sacked twice following the first muffed punt by Kyle Williams.

On the day, Manning hit 8 different receivers and targeted 11.  It really was “all in” for the offense on Sunday.  Manning finished with 32 completions on 58 attempts (55%) for 316 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Manning’s passer rating was 82.3 and his Total QBR was just 30.9.  The T-QBR is an efficiency rating designed by ESPN and though it has its flaws does take into account a lot of factors that led to the low rating.  For a detailed analysis, take a look at this link.  One thing that’s not taken into account is the will to win and the other intangibles such as the ability to make critical plays in the clutch.  Eli has these intangibles in spades, so ratings be damned.

Running Backs

New York was facing the toughest front 7 against the run in the entire league Sunday on a very wet and sloppy field.  San Francisco came into the game giving up just 74 yards on average rushing per game and had only allowed 3 rushing touchdowns all season.  Even so, the Giants kept plugging.  On the day, the Giants attempted 25 rushes and it was clear early that the onus was going to be on Ahmad Bradshaw to produce whatever he could.

Bradshaw rushed 20 times for 74 yards, a 3.7 ypc average.  His long on the day was just 9 yards.  Bradshaw got most of his yardage via the cutback, rarely running to where the design of the play began.  Notably, he made one big mistake early in the 3rd quarter.  After opening the first drive with a 9 yard run (again on a cutback), the Giants were in a 21 set (two TEs, two RBs, one WR) with Cruz in the offset slot behind Pascoe.  The 49ers countered with five men on the line, 2 linebackers lined up between the LDE and NT with two CBs playing off coverage and a 2 deep safeties.  That’s only 7 in the box against essentially 7 linemen and a fullback.  Ballard came in motion from the right to settle in at the FB position.  At the snap, the entire right side of the line did a great job of neutralizing the 49er linemen. Ballard led directly up the middle and stoned the strong side linebacker.  On the left side, LT David Diehl got caught on a stunt by the RDE.  LG Kevin Boothe originally took the RDT, pushing him into Diehl.  Boothe passed off the RDT, and engaged the RDE.  Had Bradshaw made an initial decision to just hit the hole behind Ballard, he may have gotten the first but certainly would have made it very close.  The hole was there.  Instead, Bradshaw bounced left and RDT was able to disengage from Boothe to the outside and stuff Bradshaw for about half a yard loss.  The play was huge because on 3rd down the Giants were unable to convert as they tried to throw a quick flare to Bradshaw, ending their first drive of the second half.  That was a huge momentum shift at the time.
Bradshaw also caught 6 of 8 passes for 52 yards, but 30 of them came on one play.  New York tried to get him out on a screen a couple times with no success.

HB Brandon Jacobs was not used much in this game, carrying just 5 times for 13 yards and catching just 2 passes for 8 yards.  Jacobs was unable to convert an early 4th and 1 at the 49ers 34 yard line.  As Eric from BBI posted, “On the 4th-and-1. A DB (#31) (note:  that was Donte Whitner) shot into the gap and Hynoski picked him up. McKenzie took out his man and so did (the tight end). Bowman came flying in low on Jacobs. Cruz couldn’t cut him off. Great play by Bowman, but you can also say Jacobs should have not gone down so easily.”

Basically what happened was Whitner run blitzed, catching the Giants off guard.  Hynoski’s job is to clear Bowman on that play but as Eric pointed out he had to pick up Whitner, who flew to the hole.  Hynoski did an impressive job of clearing Whitner, giving Jacobs a chance to beat Bowman.  The problem is that Jacobs needs to win that one on one battle, no matter how low Ballard goes.  He was hit just as he got to the line and in that situation you’d hope that Jacobs would have the presence of mind to just go over the top of the man to get the necessary yard.  Later in the game, Jacobs did convert a 2nd and 1 play that extended the Giants’ first touchdown drive.

D.J. Ware did not factor at all in the running game.  He did have a couple excellent chips in the passing game but he nearly got Manning killed when he whiffed on a blitzer in the first half.  Ware was targeted just once in the game, and it was on the slip screen.  It was a puzzling play.  There is no way to be sure, but it appeared that Ware believed that the play was supposed to be a decoy.  Ware went in motion from the backfield to the outside, and before Manning even threw the ball jumped high in the air with his arms extended, appearing to act as though he was about to catch it.  Neither Nicks nor Cruz blocked down on the play, as both released into patterns.  That is not how the Giants run that play.  Either the three receivers, including Ware, thought the play was designed to fool the 49ers into releasing Nicks and Cruz or Manning simply threw it to Ware because he didn’t like the defense.  At any rate, it was a bum play right from the start.

Fullback Henry Hynoski had a solid day in both the running game and the passing game.  As noted, it appeared at times that the halfbacks weren’t as patient with the blocking as they maybe could have been.  Hynoski got to the second level and did his job, but the holes were closing quickly behind him.  Hynoski also had to alter his assignments to account for a couple of free rushers off blitzes.  Hynoski also caught 3 balls for 20 yards out of the backfield.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

The Giants wide receivers had a very big day on Sunday, led by Victor Cruz this time.  Cruz had an astounding 8 receptions for 125 yards in the first half alone, the long being a 36 yard catch on a 3rd and 6 play that jump-started the Giants offense and led to their first touchdown.  Of his 8 first half reception, every single one converted to a 1st down.  Three of them came on 3rd down and the other five came on 2nd down.  In the second, half San Francisco did a great job of shutting Cruz down, but he still made two more catches in the 3rd quarter, converting another 1st down.  Amazingly Cruz did not catch a single pass after the completion with 8:54 left to play in the 3rd quarter.  He nearly had a circus catch on a 3rd and 4 play on the Giants’ final drive of the 4th quarter that would have put them in field goal range but the ball was just out of his reach and after juggling it a bit, it fell to the ground incomplete.

It was all Cruz all the time on the final drive of the first half that got the Giants their first field goal and the lead.  Cruz caught 4 passes, all for 1st downs, for a total of 56 yards on the drive.  That’s every single yard the Giants gained on that drive.  By game’s end, Cruz caught 10 of 17 passes thrown his way for 142 yards and 9 first downs.

Hakeem Nicks also had a decent game despite injuring his shoulder early.  Nicks was targeted 12 times and caught 5 passes for 55 yards.  Four of Nicks’ receptions also went for 1st downs, with three of them coming on 3rd down.  As with Cruz, Nicks was locked down in the 2nd half and only caught 1 pass in the 3rd quarter and one in the 4th quarter.

Mario Manningham was targeted 5 times but only came down with 1 catch.  It was a big one.  On 3rd and 15 from the San Francisco 17 yard line, the Giants ran a double post with Ballard underneath Manningham and Cruz even shorter underneath Ballard.  The safety climbed forward to double Ballard, leaving Manningham with one on one coverage by reserve CB Tramaine Brock.  Manningham beat him cleanly and Manning delivered a strike against a three-man San Francisco rush.

TE Travis Beckum is becoming more ingrained in the New York passing attack as Eli targeted him 5 times with Beckum catching 4 of them for 16 yards.  The one incomplete pass was a deep shot.  New York did execute a screen with Beckum but the astute San Francisco front was simply not getting fooled by the screen pass on Sunday and Beckum was caught from behind.

TE Bear Pascoe, who hadn’t caught a touchdown pass all season, caught his first of the year on the only pass thrown his way on Sunday.  TE Jake Ballard looked like he was moving better this week than last, and he was open on several occasions in which Eli decided to go elsewhere with the football.  Ballard was only thrown to one time which was incomplete.  Ballard saw a few opportunities at fullback on Sunday as well.

Offensive Line

As Eric from BBI outlined on this thread, the Giants offensive line stood up well early but faltered late, particularly in pass protection.  It should be noted that the Giants gained more rushing yards than San Francisco allowed on average all season (87 to 74, not including the 2 yard loss on the Manning kneel down).  The Giants had to keep the 49ers honest by running the ball some, and on Sunday they did just enough, which is to say they did their usual for this season.

Every lineman had problems on Sunday at different times.  The tackles, Kareem McKenzie and David Diehl, gave up pressure on the outside, particularly in the second half.  The interior of the line struggled to maintain blocks and open holes in the running game.  Chris Snee gave up two sacks in the first half.  David Baas and Kevin Boothe played better in the first half than they did in the second half.

Let’s face it, in the second half, the 49ers front seven completely controlled the line of scrimmage.  To their credit, New York’s line did a great job of maintaining their composure in the noise and only got called for one false start penalty and one hold all day.  More astounding was the fact that the line wasn’t called for a single hold on a pass play despite 64 drop backs.  San Francisco actually had 2 false starts.

Defense

Everywhere you look on the game tape of the Giants defense on Sunday you see a guy making a play.  Every single unit came up big at one point or another, and none more than the five defensive backs.  New York allowed just one catch to a wide receiver – to Michael Crabtree for 3 yards on a 3rd and 5 play from the Giants 10 yard line.  That stop forced San Francisco to kick a game tying field goal instead of potentially scoring a game winning touchdown.

The key to the entire day on defense was New York’s unbelievable ability to completely shut down the 49ers offense on third down.  Until the final play of regulation when New York was playing deep to ensure no cheap touchdowns, San Francisco was 0-12 on 3rd downs.  That is nothing short of amazing.

San Francisco ran well, but the numbers are somewhat skewed.  On the day, the 49ers gained 150 yards on the ground but 42 of them came on scrambles by QB Alex Smith.  New York held stellar RB Frank Gore to 74 yards on 16 carries (4.6 ypc average).  HB Kendall Smith pitched in with 31 yards on 4 carries.  As was noted in pregame discussions, New York had to be wary of the trick play.  San Francisco only tried to run one true “trick,” an end around that nearly ended in disaster for the 49ers.  They were able to execute a couple of exotic misdirection runs to Smith that gained good yardage.

Front 7

New York didn’t do anything fancy with their front 4 on Sunday, content to bring limited blitzes and let the defensive line just do their job.  What they did employ was their 4 DE package, dubbed the “Nascar Package” and better known on BBI as the Four Aces, quite a bit.  On the day, the line and DE/LB Mathias Kiwanuka got 3 sacks (1.5 by Tuck, 0.5 by Umenyiora, 0.5 by Pierre-Paul and 0.5 from Kiwanuka) and 6 hits on Smith.

The linebackers did not blitz often as they were tasked to cover TEs Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker and backs.

DTs Linval Joseph and Chris Canty had 2 of the 3 passes tipped at the line while JPP had the third.  Joseph and Canty were extremely active and did a good job of holding up at the line in the running game.  It was chippy, as Canty received a personal foul call for retaliating when his teammate Rocky Bernard was roughed up and came away with a bloody mouth after a play late in the 3rd quarter.

The play of the front 4 was crucial late in the 4th quarter and overtime when they helped force three 3 and outs.  During these critical moments of the game, the front four got 2 sacks and had Smith on the run, allowing just 3-of-8 completions.  The line simply willed themselves to shut down Smith late, prolonging the stalemate with the 49er defense that was only ended due to the Williams fumble in overtime.

The linebacker play on Sunday was stellar.  MIKE linebacker Chase Blackburn led the team in tackles with 7 and was outstanding at getting into his drops and helping to take both TE Vernon Davis and WR Michael Crabtree out of the game over the middle of the field.  His counterpart, Jacquian Williams, also was outstanding in the game and made a critical pass defense when he got under RB Frank Gore and nearly intercepted a pass that would have gone a long way if it had been caught.

Mathais Kiwanuka made one of the most critical plays of the day when he was able to shed a blocker and force RB Anthony Dixon back inside on the 3rd and 1 play where Linval Joseph and Chase Blackburn converged to stop him for no gain at the Giants 46 yard line.

Secondary

New York made two mistakes in the secondary on Sunday, and both went for touchdowns.  Other than those two plays it could be argued that the secondary played their best game of the season as they completely shut down the San Francisco wide receivers including the dangerous Michael Crabtree who had 1 catch for 3 yards despite being targeted 5 times.  WR Kyle Williams was targeted 4 times and caught none.  Williams did get deep on the Giants once and was overthrown badly by Smith.  Had that been a better pass it would probably have gone for a 70 yard touchdown.

CBs Corey Webster and Aaron Ross shut down the outside all day with help from safeties Deon Grant and Kenny Phillips.  Webster nearly had a pick early in the game and caused the Delanie Walker fumble on the last play of regulation.  Aaron Ross was also credited with a pass defensed.  To illustrate just how effective they were, Ross and Webster combined for just 4 tackles on the entire day.  Ross was called on one of the most ticky tack illegal contact penalties ever called when he shoved WR Kevin Williams down as he made his in-cut between 5 and 6 yards off the line.  The penalty occurred on 3rd and 19 and extended the drive.

S Kenny Phillips had a tremendous game despite being the goat on Vernon Davis’ second touchdown.  On that play, Davis came in motion to the left side of the formation and lined up in the slot.  No Giant linebacker or CB maneuvered with Davis to that position, and Phillips came up to the line of scrimmage in what appeared a precursor to jamming him at the line.  Instead, Phillips lined up directly opposite Kevin Williams, allowed Williams a free release to the middle of the field, and then sat in what appeared to be a zone look while Webster had to take Walker, who cut inside Davis to the center of the field, leaving Phillips one on one with Davis who wheeled outside and deep.  It’s possible that Phillips expected Davis to run a simple out cut and thought he had taken it away.  As the play developed, it sure appeared that Phillips would jam Davis but apparently that wasn’t the strategy on that play.

Phillips shared deep coverage over the top of Davis with Blackburn underneath and overall took Davis out of the game.  His read and hit on Davis stopped the 49ers short of a 1st down by 1 yard in overtime, setting up the dramatic finish.

Antrel Rolle and Deon Grant also played extremely well in coverage.  Rolle was victimized on the first Davis touchdown but otherwise played a good game, particularly in run support.  On the play before the failed 3rd and 1 by San Francisco, Rolle was lined up near the line of scrimmage and was absolutely mugged by NT turned FB Isaac Sopoaga, fell to the ground, but was able to reach out and trip up RB Anthony Dixon for just a 3 yard gain.  Dixon looked off to the races for a big gainer on that play, but Rolle’s determination set up the 3rd and 1 stand.

Special Teams

San Francisco has one of the best special teams units in all of football.  They routinely win the battle of field position due to the fact that they have arguably the best kicking game in the league.  That bore out in the kickoff game as New York’s drives started on average at the 22 yard line while San Francisco started at their 30.

K Lawrence Tynes wasn’t as effective as David Akers on kickoffs.  None of Tynes’ four kickoffs went into the end zone.  Kickoff coverage was fine except for the 40 yard return that set up the 49ers at their own 45 yard line for their game tying field goal drive.  New York returned just one of Akers’ kickoffs for 17 yards as his other 4 were touchbacks.  San Francisco gained 100 total yards on four kickoff returns.

As for the punting game, New York punted 12 times and San Francisco punted 10.  Steve Weatherford pinned the 49ers inside the 20 just twice while SF punter Andy Lee was able to drop it inside the 20 on three occasions.

San Francisco was aggressive with their punt return game while the Giants were cautious, even to the point of putting Aaron Ross back deep in the 4th quarter and overtime.  While the reason for that hasn’t been disclosed, one can assume that Tom Coughlin wanted sure hands back there.  Even with the change, it was apparent that the Giants returners were instructed to take what they could get and then get down with the ball secured.  New York averaged about 9 yards per punt return as did the 49ers.  Giants punt coverage was good save for the one 24 yarder returned by Williams that set up the 49ers at their own 46 yard line on their go ahead touchdown drive in the third quarter.

Despite the 49ers coming away with the edge in both kicking games, New York capitalized on the fact that Kyle Williams was sloppy in the return game and turned the ball over twice.  The first was a muffed punt that went off Williams’ knee after a very short punt by a pressured Weatherford took a good bounce downfield.  The only smart play there is to just get away from the ball, but when the ball took off on the bounce, Williams thought of fielding it and at the last second decided not to but by then it was too late.  An alert Devin Thomas, the gunner on the play, scooped up the ball and scooted into the end zone while whistles blew.  Thomas and Chase Blackburn implored HC Tom Coughlin to challenge the play, which he did and won.  New York got the ball on the San Francisco 29 yard line and despite incurring a holding penalty on the drive converted the short field into a go ahead touchdown.

Williams stayed aggressive and on the ensuing kickoff set up the 49ers with the 40 yard return noted above.  Unfortunately for Williams, his aggressiveness cost him in overtime when he fielded a punt by Weatherford and tried to get outside the coverage.  On the play, Jacquian Williams had maintained his gap all the way down the field.  Kyle Williams attempted to elude him by cutting left.  Jacquian stayed with the play despite the slick field and on one foot and completely off balance got his hand inside and knocked the ball free from behind.  Devin Thomas, again the gunner on the play, scooped up the loose ball at the 24 yard line and the Giants were in business to kick the game winning field goal.

Lawerence Tynes converted both field goal attempts, including his second NFC Championship overtime game winner.

Coaching

Tom Coughlin knows what’s at stake in the playoffs.  He understands that these situations do not come along often and masterfully explains the opportunity at hand to his players.  New York played with discipline, poise and tenacity on Sunday.  Despite the bad weather and field conditions, New York didn’t commit a turnover.

The Giants did commit 9 penalties on the day and 4 of them led to 49er first downs.  The only defensive penalty that proved costly was the illegal hands to the face penalty on Kenny Phillips in which he grabbed Vernon Davis’ facemask as he lost him at the line of scrimmage on a 1st down play in the 4th quarter.  San Francisco went on to score a field goal on that drive, but it could be argued that the slight grab by Phillips slowed Davis just enough to save a possible touchdown.

Coughlin also did a great job of clock management at the end of the first half to ensure Manning had enough time to get down the field in the 2 minute drill to kick the go ahead field goal.

Perry Fewell called a masterful game.  He did a great job of trusting his front four on the pass rush and keeping his linebackers and safeties in coverage.  Despite the fact that TE Vernon Davis did score 2 touchdowns, he only had 3 catches and was taken out of the game for long stretches. The wide receivers did nothing against the Giants.

One has to agree that the strategy to protect the ball at all costs on special teams worked for the Giants.  San Francisco is the best team in the league at taking away the ball.  On a sloppy day, special teams turnovers could have killed the Giants, especially when they were fielding 10 punts.  As we all saw, the 49ers were much more aggressive and it cost them twice, leading to 10 crucial points.

Final Thoughts

New York is now a perfect 5-0 in Conference Championship games, and 2-0 in Candlestick Park in Conference Championship games.  This game was a true throwback to an era gone by.  Two defenses that were simply unwilling to break.  Before the fumbled punt, it sure looked like this stalemate could go late into the night.  The will of the Giants is uncannily strong, and this team and its playoff run is eerily similar to the 2007 team that won the Super Bowl.

The Giants now has a chance to repeat the 2007 outcome as they will once again meet Tom Brady and the New England Patriots for the right to raise the Lombardi Trophy.  This time there are no perfect teams, there are no David and Goliath platitudes, it’s just a very good New England team and a very good New York Giants team.

Onwards and upwards, one last time!

(Box Score – New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, January 22, 2012)
Jan 252012
 

New York Giants Player Interviews: Transcripts and video of yesterday’s media Q&A sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Player Interviews on WFAN: Audio of yesterday’s interviews with the following players is available at CBSNewYork.com:

  • DE Jason Pierre-Paul (Audio)
  • S Antrel Rolle (Audio)

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin and QB Eli Manning: Déjà Vu All Over Again by Peter King of SportsIllustrated.com

Article on QBs Eli and Peyton Manning: Peyton Manning a Cheerleader for His Brother by Judy Battista of The New York Times

Article on QB Eli Manning: The Patriots Don’t Have Eli by Aditi Kinkhabwala of The Wall Street Journal

Article on P Steve Weatherford: Giants Punter Steve Weatherford Doesn’t Keep Calm, Even in Most Important Moments by Steve Politi of The Star-Ledger

Article on Giants’ Senior Vice President of Player Personnel Chris Mara: Chris Mara Eyeing a Different Trophy by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on Former Giants’ Owner Wellington Mara: Spirit of Mara Can Still Be Felt by Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post

Articles on Former Giants’ WR David Tyree:

Jan 242012
 

January 23, 2012 New York Giants Injury Report: WR Hakeem Nicks (shoulder) and S Tyler Sash (concussion) were injured in the game against the 49ers.

“(Nicks) came right back and played,” said Head Coach Tom Coughlin. “He’s sore, but I think he’s going to be fine.”

“I think Tyler is going to have to go through all of the (concussion test) protocols, but he felt pretty good even on the plane last night,” said Coughlin. “So I’m hoping that he will go ahead and pass all of his testing. A lot of that will take place tomorrow.”

Giants’ Practice Schedule: The players will meet today, take Wednesday off, then practice Thursday through Saturday. The Giants will have a normal practice schedule next week in Indianapolis with Wednesday, Thursday and Friday practice sessions.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Monday Media Conference Call: The transcript of yesterday’s media conference call with Head Coach Tom Coughlin is available at Giants.com.

WFAN Interview with Giants’ President/CEO John Mara: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with Giants’ President/CEO John Mara is available at CBSNewYork.com.

WFAN Interview with DE Justin Tuck: The audio of yesterday’s WFAN interview with DE Justin Tuck is available at CBSNewYork.com.

Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s Post-Game Press Conference: Video of Head Coach Tom Coughlin’s post-game press conference is available at Giants.com.

Post-Game Player Media Q&As: Video of post-game media sessions with the following players are available at Giants.com:

Article on the Giants-49ers Game: Giants-49ers Game Review: Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin Lift Giants to Super Bowl by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Article on the New York Giants: Mara Helps Make Giants Bedrock of Stability in Fickle NFL by Albert Breer of NFL.com

Article on the Giants’ Special Teams: Giants’ Field-Goal Unit, Needing Its Best, Prepared for the Worst by Sam Borden of The New York Times

Article on Head Coach Tom Coughlin: Giants’ Tom Coughlin is Enjoying the Game More Than Ever as His Team Heads to the Super Bowl by Mike Garafolo of The Star-Ledger

Articles on QB Eli Manning: Eli Emerging From Shadow of Big Brother by Ian O’Connor of ESPNNewYork.com

Article on WR Devin Thomas: Journeyman Giant Kept Ending Up in Right Place by Harvey Araton of The New York Times

Article on DE Dave Tollefson: A Mother’s Love and Her Pregame Profanity Sustain a Giant in the Trenches by Mark Viera of The New York Times

Notes: The Giants are 5-0 in NFC Championship games. The Giants also won NFC titles in 1986, 1990, 2000, and 2007.

The Giants are 3-0 on the road in the NFC Championship Game, winning twice in San Francisco and once in Green Bay. It was the second time they defeated the 49ers in a championship in Candlestick Park on a last-play field goal.

There have been five NFL/NFC championship games decided in overtime and the Giants have played in three of them. They lost the 1958 league championship game to the Baltimore Colts and defeated Green Bay in 2007 and San Francisco on Sunday in conference title games.

The Giants will be the 10th franchise to play in at least five Super Bowls, joining 49ers, Packers, Cowboys, Steelers, Raiders, Redskins, Patriots, Dolphins, and Broncos.

The Giants are the third team since the introduction of the 16-game schedule in 1978 to reach the Super Bowl after finishing the regular season with a 9-7 record. The 1979 Los Angeles Rams and 2008 Arizona Cardinals were 9-7.

The Giants won their fifth consecutive road playoff game (three in 2007 and two this year), an NFL record.

The Giants have won seven consecutive overtime games, including the two championship games.

The Giants did not turn the ball over against the 49ers. It was the seventh consecutive game in which they did not lose a fumble, their longest such streak since 2008. The Giants have not committed a turnover in three of their last four games.

QB Eli Manning improved to 7-3 as a starting quarterback in the postseason, including 5-1 on the road. The five road postseason victories are an NFL record.

Manning now owns the franchise post-season records for passes (316), completions (190), completion percentage (60.13), yards (2,220), and touchdown passes (16).